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Eric Robert Greitens /ˈɡrtənz/ (born April 10, 1974) is an American politician, author, and former Navy SEAL, serving as the 56th Governor of Missouri since January 2017.[1] He is the second youngest Governor in the United States, after New Hampshire's Chris Sununu.

Eric Greitens
Eric Greitens 2011-7.jpg
56th Governor of Missouri
Assumed office
January 9, 2017
Lieutenant Mike Parson
Preceded by Jay Nixon
Personal details
Born Eric Robert Greitens
(1974-04-10) April 10, 1974 (age 43)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Republican (2015–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2015)
Spouse(s) Sheena Chestnut (m. 2011)
Children 2
Residence Governor's Mansion
Education Duke University (BA)
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (MPhil, DPhil)
Website Government website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 2001–2017
Rank U.S. Navy O-4 infobox.svg Lieutenant commander
Commands Joint Special Operations Task Unit
Mark V Special Operations Craft Detachment
Al Qaeda Targeting Cell
Awards Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Joint Service Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Joint Service Commendation Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Navy Commendation Medal
Joint Service Achievement Medal ribbon.svg Joint Service Achievement Medal
Combat Action Ribbon.svg Combat Action Ribbon
Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal ribbon.svg Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal

Born and raised in St. Louis, Greitens graduated from Parkway North High School before attending Duke University with a scholarship. After attending the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earning a doctorate, he later became a U.S. Navy SEAL officer, where he served four tours of duty around the world, rose to the rank of lieutenant commander, commanded an Al-Qaeda targeting cell and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other decorations. Following his military service, Greitens served as a White House Fellow and founded The Mission Continues, a non-profit organization serving veterans which he led until 2014.[2] Time included him in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.[3]

Previously a Democrat,[4] he announced his candidacy for governor as a Republican, campaigning on a platform centered around ethics reform. Positioning himself as a conservative outsider, his campaign drew significant comparison to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. After defeating three opponents in the Republican primaries, he faced state Attorney General Chris Koster whom he defeated in the general election on November 8, 2016.[5]

During his tenure, the state legislature has passed right-to-work legislation and enacted legislation to counteract the prescription drug crisis. Greitens has been criticized for his campaign's refusal to disclose dark money donors.[6] On February 22, 2018, Greitens was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges, relating to alleged actions associated with an affair he disclosed a month earlier.[7]


Early life

Greitens was born on April 10, 1974, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Becky and Rob Greitens.[8] He is Jewish.[2]

Greitens attended Parkway North High School[9] and was named a member of the 1995 USA Today All-USA Academic Team. Greitens was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University where he studied ethics, philosophy, and public policy.[10]

Before graduating in 1996, he was selected as a Rhodes[11][12] and Truman Scholar.[13] He attended Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, where he earned an MPhil in development studies in 1998 and a D.Phil. in politics in 2000.[14] Some of his photographs appear in the publication Children in War: Community Strategies for Healing.[15]

Greitens is a former Senior Fellow at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri.[16] He has taught public service at the Truman School of Public Affairs and was an adjunct professor of business ethics in the MBA program at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.[17][18][19]


Armed services

Greitens attended the United States Navy's Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, in January 2001, graduating in May of that year as an ensign in the United States Navy Reserve.[20][21] He then began Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California,[22][23] graduating with Class 237 in February, 2002.[24]

Greitens rose to be a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve. During his active duty career, he was deployed four times, to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as the commander of a joint special operations task unit, commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft detachment,[25] and commander of an al Qaeda targeting cell.[26] Some of his military awards are the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.[citation needed]

White House Fellowship

Greitens speaking in 2011

In 2005, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a White House Fellow.[27] As a White House Fellow, Greitens worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)[28] and developed a new program to assist with the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina. The program, called the Universities Rebuilding America Partnership (URAP),[29][30] was a $5.6 million effort to engage architecture and engineering students in the continued effort to rebuild New Orleans. During his time as a White House Fellow, he co-founded the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Program.[31]

The Mission Continues

After returning from Iraq, Greitens used his combat pay and the disability pay of two friends to start The Mission Continues, whose goal is to "challenge veterans to serve and lead in communities across America".[32] It encourages veterans to heal themselves through public service by engaging in volunteer organizations across the country.[33][34] In 2014 the organization won the CLASSY Award, recognizing its effectiveness in active-duty and veteran services.[35] He stepped down as CEO in July 2014 and resigned from the board of directors in 2015.[36][37][38][39][40]

As CEO of The Mission Continues, Greitens worked without a salary from 2007–08. Later, Greitens received compensation of between $150,000 and $200,000.[41] Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of CharityWatch, which evaluates nonprofit organizations, remarked that Greitens' wages "seem within a reasonable range" while the AP reported that his salary was about one-third higher than the $131,000 median compensation for chief executives of 237 medium-sized charities in the Midwest.[42]


Greitens with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in March 2017

Strength and Compassion is a collection of photographs and essays by Greitens. Published in 2008;[43] it is Greitens' first book, with a foreword by Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina and an introduction by Bobby Muller, cofounder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.[44]

Greitens' second book, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, was published on April 11, 2011, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.[45][46]

The Heart and the Fist is Greitens' memoir of service, featuring stories of his humanitarian work, his training as a naval officer and SEAL and the military experiences that led him to adopt the philosophy that one has to be strong to do good, but one also has to do good to be strong. The book was ranked 10th on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction in May 2011,[47][48] debuting on the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance Best Sellers list at No. 1 for the week of April 17, 2011.[49] The following year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also released a young adult edition of The Heart and the Fist, titled The Warrior's Heart.[50]

In March 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released Greitens' book Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life. It draws on letters Greitens wrote to a fellow SEAL struggling with PTSD.[51][52]

As an author and former SEAL, Greitens was a popular speaker before beginning his political career.[19] In 2016, an anonymous political attack group charged in a YouTube video that Greitens had exaggerated his record and was unduly benefiting from his time in the SEALs; Greitens later responded to the claims by releasing his military records and publishing a video he uploaded to his channel with testimonials from SEALs and Marines who had served with him.[53]

Governor of Missouri

2016 election

Gubernatorial election campaign logo

On September 26, 2015, Greitens officially announced his candidacy for Governor of Missouri[54] as a Republican.[55]

Greitens won the August 2 Republican primary with 236,250 votes (34.6%), defeating businessman John Brunner's 169,425 (24.8%), Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's 141,498 (20.7%), and former Speaker Catherine Hanaway's 136,350 (19.9%).[56] Democrat-turned-Republican Greitens faced Republican-turned-Democrat Chris Koster in the general election on November 8, 2016, and won with 51.3% of the vote to Koster's 45.4%.[57]


Greitens meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, January 2017

Greitens assumed office as governor on January 9, 2017. His first two executive orders banned employees in the executive branch from accepting gifts from lobbyists and froze all new regulations through February 2017. He remained opposed to accepting a federal Medicaid expansion in Missouri.[58]

On February 6, 2017, Greitens signed a bill into law making Missouri the 28th right-to-work state.[59] In response, unions, who opposed the law, filed a referendum to overturn the law for 2018.[60]

On March 12, 2017, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Kansas City Star editorial boards published a joint editorial criticizing the governor for "secret fundraising and secret spending" and for tactics such as ordering that "[s]ecurity staffers block reporters from getting close to him".[61]

On April 28, 2017, the Missouri Ethics Commission fined Greitens' campaign $1,000 for violating state campaign ethics rules regarding campaign disclosure. Greitens did not contest the fine.[62]

On 22 August 2017, Greitens granted a stay of execution to Marcellus Williams, who had been set to be executed that day. DNA tests, using technology unavailable at the time of the killing, on the knife used in the killing matched an unknown male, not Williams. Greitens appointed a board of five retired judges to investigate the case and recommend commutation or execution. The panel has no deadline to report back to the governor.[63][64]

On 27 October 2017, the governor's office announced that 30 women had been appointed to state boards and commissions, joining "a majority-female cabinet". First Lady Sheena Greitens had announced October 3 that the Greitens administration would appoint 25 women in the next 25 days, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Foundation of Kansas City.[65]

In December 2017, Greitens and senior members of his staff were accused by Democrats and government transparency advocates of subverting Missouri's open records laws after the Kansas City Star reported that they used Confide, a messaging app that erases texts after they have been read, on their personal phones.[66] The Missouri Attorney General, Josh Hawley, at first claimed conflict of interest, but on December 20 announced his office would investigate, saying that his clients are "first and foremost the citizens of the state".[67] [68][69] In late December two attorneys filed suit, claiming that use of such "self-immolating" apps by elected officials and government employees violates Missouri's public records laws.[70][71] The Attorney General said of the matter, "the legal complexities are significant" and “This is one of the difficulties we face with a Sunshine Law that was written decades and decades ago and has not been updated to take into account modern technology".[67] On January 3, 2018, Rep. Gina Mitten filed House Bill 1817 which would ban use of apps like Confide in conducting public business, and House Speaker Todd Richardson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that in its 2018 session the legislature might consider modernizing the state’s current sunshine laws.[69]

Personal life

Eric and Sheena Greitens dancing at the inaugural ball

Greitens's marriage to his first wife ended in divorce in 2003.[72]

Greitens married Sheena Elise Chestnut on August 7, 2011, in Spokane, Washington.[8] They had lived in St. Louis, with their two sons Joshua and Jacob.[73][74][8]


In January 2018, ahead of an investigative report released by St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV the same evening, Greitens disclosed that he had had an extramarital affair with his hair stylist in 2015, just prior to his campaign for governor. KMOV played a recording made shortly after the alleged incident by the woman's husband (since divorced), in which she relates that Greitens invited her to his home, where she consented to being blindfolded, naked, with her hands taped to exercise rings above her head. In the recording, she adds that while she was blindfolded, Greitens took pictures of her without her consent, and threatened to share the photos if she ever revealed their affair to anyone. Greitens has denied the blackmail accusation.[75][76] His wife was either pregnant or caring for a newborn during the affair.[77] After Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley's office said in a statement that it did not have jurisdiction to look into the matter, the circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis opened an investigation into the blackmail allegations.[78][79]


Greitens' mugshot after his February 22, 2018 arrest

On January 20, 2018, a report by CNN indicated that Greitens was under investigation by the FBI, though the sources could not confirm whether the blackmail allegations were the focus of the investigation.[80] Several GOP members of the Missouri House of Representatives called on Greitens to resign after the allegations were made public.[81]

On February 22, 2018, Greitens was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges. Shortly afterward he was taken into custody. He was released on bond and will appear in St. Louis City Circuit Court on March 16, 2018.[82]

Honors and awards

On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush personally awarded Greitens the President's Volunteer Service Award outside Air Force One at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, for his work at The Mission Continues.[83]

Greitens was honored with the HOOAH Award, commissioned by the Major George A. Smith Memorial Fund in 2009.[84] He was also named the 2010 Reader of the Year by Outside magazine.[85][86]

In June 2010, Major League Baseball and People announced Greitens as a winner in People's All-Stars Among Us competition. He was selected to represent the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals at the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.[87][88]

On May 20, 2012, Greitens was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Tufts University when he gave the commencement speech at the school's 156th commencement.[89] That same year, he received the Bronfman Prize, which recognizes dynamic leaders whose innovation and impact serve as inspiration for the next generations.[90]

In 2014, Fortune featured Greitens as one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.[91] On April 18, 2013, Time named Greitens to its 2013 one hundred Most Influential People in the World.[92]



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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Dave Spence
Republican nominee for Governor of Missouri
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jay Nixon
Governor of Missouri
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Missouri
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Mayor of city
in which event is held
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Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Paul LePage
as Governor of Maine
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Missouri
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as Governor of Arkansas